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Sweet tooth linked to pleasant disposition: study

/ Source: Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Does having a sweet tooth make a person more agreeable and friendly? New research suggests there could be a link between taste preferences and disposition.

Scientists in the United States found that a liking for sweeter foods is an indication that a person is more agreeable and helpful, but not extroverted or neurotic.

"It is striking that helpful and friendly people are considered 'sweet' because taste would seem to have little in common with personality or behavior," said Brian Meiers, a psychology professor at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.

"Our taste studies controlled for positive mood so the effects we found are not due to the happy or rewarding feeling one may have after eating a sweet food."

Taste is a recognizable sense that can be used in describing personality traits. With this in mind, the researchers wanted to see if having a preference for sweets was an embodiment metaphor, a connection between thoughts and our body's behavior.

In one of five studies involving more than 500 people researchers from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, St. Xavier University in Chicago and North Dakota State University showed that people who ate a piece of chocolate rather than a non-sweet food were more likely to volunteer and help another person in need.

In another study they found that people also associate having a sweet tooth with a pleasant disposition. The participants were shown photos of people with neutral facial expressions, but with comments under the pictures that would say, for example, that they liked eating chocolate.

"People rated those associated with sweet food higher in agreeableness," Meiers said.

The research, which is published in the Journal of Personality Social Psychology, focused on sweetness and agreeability. The scientists said they could not comment on the other tastes such as bitterness or spiciness.

The study is part of a increase in recent years in social psychology research in conceptual and embodiment metaphors.

"There has been a push to find out how these traits are self-predicting of what we do with our daily life," said Sarah Moeller, a psychology professor at St. Xavier University. "We are showing that with these personality traits that you show subtle aspect of self."